There’s nothing like Boston in the Fall. A tangy chill in the air with a hint of woodsmoke, designer sweaters making their appearances across the city, and families shifting gear from the joys of summer to oncoming home preparations for the advent of colder weather and the onset of winter. This year has truly been one for the history books — with many families who own multiple homes pivoting to the suburbs as their primary home in preference to city living during these times.
There are many beautiful luxury homes in Boston proper as well as the Boston suburbs. In this article I wanted to explore the luxury market in greater Boston in regards to its character, location, and trends.
As one of the oldest cities in the United States, Boston is an elegant aggregate of culture, history, and diverse neighborhoods: 23 to be precise — from Allston to the West End and West Roxbury, and that doesn’t include the suburbs. Boston as a city is rich both in character and history having long been a crucible and incubator for strong ideas, strong people, innovation, and decisive action. This has manifested with political independence nearly 250 years ago and now spanning many important sectors from education and medical, to finance and technology.
Boston is home to many prestigious universities, including MIT, Tufts, Harvard, Boston University, Brandeis, Boston College, and Northeastern University — among others. Boston’s educational sector contributes strongly to a cultured, vibrant, and diverse social climate here.
Today Boston is a leading venue of luxury home architecture, interior design, and sustainable building. Homes in Boston can have an extremely unique aesthetic that appeals to successful professionals and their families. Some Boston homes are amongst the oldest in the country — in many cases passed down generation to generation. There is a stateliness and dignity to Boston homes that is clearly New England and reminiscent of the origins of this beautiful city and the birth of our country.
There are varying benchmarks for defining “luxury homes.” For the sake of simplicity we will use the rule of thumb of the top 10% of the market. In Boston, homes can easily exceed 1 million USD in sale price, so for the purpose of this conversation, a safe starting point for the cost of a luxury home would be several million USD and up.
Christie’s International Real Estate is an experienced and leading international brand and thought leader in Luxury Real Estate around the world and lists 10 defining factors it considers important in luxury real estate. I found three to be most salient and wanted to reference them here for consideration:
1 | LUXURY IS… SO MUCH MORE THAN LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
“Traditionally prominent addresses and prized ZIP codes are no longer the defining baseline concept for luxury homes. High net-worth-individuals (HNWIs) are expanding the borders of traditional luxury locales, and are willing to pay a premium in emerging luxury areas if the amenities and lifestyle offerings are right. The evolution of high-end commercial real estate is also driving this phenomenon.”
The luxury market within Boston is expanding with luxury homes now existing and being built in Cambridge, Somerville, the South End and South Boston — all areas that two decades ago were not in this demographic. As an example of this, check out 167 Brattle Street in Cambridge.
2 | LUXURY IS… CONSCIOUS LIVING
“Owning a home that doesn’t negatively impact the community — and one that can even bring positive meaning — is attractive to wealthy buyers. The demand for more sustainable and healthy environments has placed greater emphasis on knowing where and how products are manufactured, and has fueled a trend toward conscious living.”
Environmental awareness is clearly now trending — it’s unfortunate it took this long. Sustainable design is becoming increasingly popular across all markets–including the luxury market as the importance of respecting and nurturing our planet has become starkly apparent. Some homeowners are investing in full Passive home refits, such as this one we are currently designing in Somerville:
3| LUXURY IS… A BLANK CANVAS
“At the other end of the spectrum, some enthusiastic buyers are pushing the desire for newness to new heights. Impeded by lack of quality housing inventory, more and more ultra-affluent buyers wish to build their own trophy homes from scratch.”
I think all three of these points from Christies are quite relevant — as from my experience in design and building within the Boston luxury market, especially in these times, there is a distinct desire for families to design and create exactly what they want–now in a manner which is aesthetic, safe, and sustainable. We work with clients frequently along these lines and are able to help them design and craft the sustainable home of their dreams.
So where are the luxury homes in Boston and what are considered the luxury neighborhoods for families looking to obtain, design, and remodel a luxury home? Well in truth there are many — I’ve selected five of the most prominent here from my 16 years of designing and building family homes for clients in Boston.
Luxury Home Areas of Boston
Living in Back Bay is the equivalent of luxury courtside seats to all that is good in this vibrant, cultured city of Boston — let me tell you, seating is extremely limited in this upscale, brick-lined neighborhood. In a city teeming with life, culture, identity, and history, Back Bay stands out as an iconic locale with its own aesthetic and is truly one of the most beautiful parts of Boston. Back Bay is not a city or town in itself, but rather an affluent and intensely desirable neighborhood in the center of the City of Boston spanning an area of land that was once quite literally one of Boston’s bays and a part of the Atlantic Ocean.
Between 1857 and 1880 this area was filled in and reclaimed in an effort to provide a venue for further luxury housing in Boston. This effort over several decades yielded an additional 450 finite acres that became what is today known as Back Bay. Prime real estate, if this has ever been true.
- • Median home listing price in Back Bay: $1.2 million USD
- • Home cost range: $129,500 – $14 million USD
- • Number of Back Bay homes currently on the market for sale: 211
Our overview on Back Bay: www.nedesignbuild.com/back-bay-boston-spotlight
Beacon Hill is one of the most elegant and affluent areas of Boston and one of the truly unique, classy, and historical neighborhoods in all of the United States. Beacon Hill is quintessential Boston — elegant, upscale, sophisticated, and fully seeped in Federal Style and Colonial Revival architectural history reminiscent of the era of this country’s founding.
Beacon Hill is a small, geographically finite, affluent, and sophisticated part of Boston home to the Massachusetts State House, the seat of government for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Envision narrow streets, brick sidewalks, actual gas street lamps evoking London, and Sherlock Holmes, as well as beautiful brick town homes and federal-style row houses with a strong colonial vibe — some of the homes dating back to the late 1700s.
Beacon Hill as a neighborhood is extremely small at 42 hectares. If you are wondering — a hectare is approximately 2.47 acres, so Beacon Hill stands on about 110 finite acres of land bordered on one side by the Charles River and on another by the Boston Common and Boston Public Garden. Beacon Hill touches corners with high-end Back Bay, which is 340 acres by comparison — over three times the size of Beacon Hill.
Louisburg Square is considered among the most desirable sections of elegant residential real estate in Massachusetts with beautiful Greek Revival style townhomes surrounding an enclosed grassy park on all four sides. Quiet, peaceful, and extremely beautiful, this charming section of Beacon Hill is one of Boston’s prized sections of real estate. It’s residents are the only ones who have access to street parking. 17 Louisburg Square is a 7,610 square foot townhouse currently on the market for $18,500,000.
- • Median home listing price in Beacon Hill: $1.3 million USD
- • Home cost range: $350,000 – $22.5 million USD
- • Number of Beacon Hill homes currently on the market for sale: 104
Our overview on Beacon Hill: www.nedesignbuild.com/beacon-hill-spotlight
The South End
Boston’s South End is an artistic and vibrant neighborhood directly south of Back Bay and just northwest of a separate neighborhood by the name of South Boston.
The South End is bordered by Chinatown and Roxbury, and is not directly south of the center of Boston, so it’s a bit of a misnomer at first glance. This beautiful neighborhood composed of arresting Victorian row houses and tree-lined streets has a vibrant lifestyle, as well as a culinary and art culture all of its own.
The South End is a haven and creative hub for artists, artisans, and makers with a unique lifestyle of creative non-conformity to corporate chains, uniform cubicles, and regimentation — a safe space where artistic creativity can unleash and find both outlet and appreciation. The South End stretches for beyond 300 acres with over 25,000 residents and has 11 residential parks throughout — many of them are oval shaped with passive use green space and fountains in the center. The South End has been included in the National Register of Historic Places since 1973 and there are additionally 16 gardens and pocket parks adding to the overall green aspect of the South End.
- • Median listing price in Boston’s South End: $1 million USD
- • Home cost range: $75,000 – $7.2 million USD
- • Number of South End homes currently on the market: 281
Our overview on the South End: www.nedesignbuild.com/south-end-spotlight
The trendy and elegant Boston suburb of Chestnut Hill has evolved into a decidedly upscale, tree-lined haven established as one of the most classically striking Boston venues to call home. A suburban oasis of beauty within striking distance of Boston proper and home over the past years to numerous celebrities, political standouts, prominent figures, and their families. Perhaps one of Boston’s most beautiful seven kingdoms, notables from Tom Brady and Michael Dukakis, to Patriots owner Robert Kraft and sculptor John A. Wilson have called Chestnut Hill home.
Located 6 miles to the west of downtown Boston, Chestnut Hill is not a municipality — rather it is technically a village — an exclusive neighborhood spanning 70 acres carved out of sections of Brookline, Newton, and Brighton. The area is known as the 02467 — Chestnut Hill’s distinctive zip code. Let it also be known — Chestnut Hill is not a single hill, but rather a series of hills overlooking the Chestnut Hill Reservoir.
Former New England Patriot quarterback Tom Brady & Gisele’s Chestnut Hill Mansion was put on the market in 2019 for over $39.5 million dollars. The 12,000+ square foot estate located at 112 Woodland Road in Chestnut Hill is truly one of Boston’s finest, complete with stunning natural lighting, a beautiful interior layout for family living, high ceilings, and every luxury amenity you would expect for this price. This is a Gibson Sotheby’s listing and you can see the property fly-through here:
(Note: this property was temporarily removed from the market for a period in 2020)
- • Median home listing price in Chestnut Hill, Boston: $1.1 million USD
- • Chestnut Hill home cost range: $415,000 – $11 million USD
- • Number of Chestnut Hill homes currently on the market: 65
Our overview on Chestnut Hill: www.nedesignbuild.com/chestnut-hill-boston-spotlight
Wellesley is a picturesque Boston suburb 12 miles or so west of Boston with a population of 27,000 and a rich Colonial character and charm all of its own. Envision rolling hills, ponds, and beautiful, landed home estates. Wellesley is the 7th wealthiest town in the United States and is home to numerous Colonial and Cape Style houses with beautiful lawns and estates.
Wellesley is also home to many professionals and is known to have the second- highest concentration of inhabitants with advanced degrees in the entire country. If you are looking for an elegant property with an upscale countryside feel and ready access to Boston — Wellesley may be exactly what you are looking for.
- • Median home listing price in Wellesley: $1.7 million USD
- • Wellesley home cost range: $515,000 – $9.8 million USD
- • Number of Wellesley homes currently on the market: 76
Luxury Residential Tower Properties in Boston
Millennium Tower, Boston.
1 Franklin Street, Boston
This luxury residential skyscraper stands prominently on the Boston skyline at 60 stories. Millennium Tower was completed in 2016 and is a luxury, five-star, and full-service residential tower with stunning views of the Boston cityscape, Boston Harbor, and the skyline all the way to the foothills of New Hampshire. It’s one of the tallest residential buildings in downtown Boston, standing impressively at 685 feet.
Four Seasons Boston Private Residences at One Dalton.
1 Dalton Street, Back Bay, Boston
This 61-story residential tower opened last year with a Four Seasons hotel occupying the bottom and luxury residences occupying the top floors — this is now the tallest residential building in New England. The interiors are elegant, with floor-to-ceiling windows, all the amenities one would expect, and stunning views of the city.
St. Regis Residences, Boston.
150 Seaport Blvd., Boston
St. Regis is the leading up and comer here, scheduled to open in 2021. A stately, neo-oceanic looking structure in Boston’s Seaport District, this majestic luxury tower of 22 floors offers 114 units with condos ranging from 2 million – 10 million each. Unit prices rise from there — with projected penthouse unit prices not yet available. St. Regis was designed by Elkus Manfredi Architects.
Top Luxury Real Estate Firms in Boston
The Christie’s International Real Estate Brand holds distinction and prestige from its association with the venerable Christies Auction House established in 1766 by James Christie in London — through their international network you can purchase anything from an eco-home to a castle or private island. “Landvest is an exclusive Affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate in Maine and New Hampshire, and select areas of Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island.” (www.landvest.com). Landvest has their corporate office in South Boston and their Timberland HQ in Concord, NH — specializing in unique residential properties, timberland, and specialty & development properties such as boatyards, marinas, equestrian facilities, farms, inns, B&Bs, islands, land, and income properties. Looking for that second castle — look no further.
Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty. www.gibsonsothebysrealty.com
Chairman and Co-Owner Larry Rideout and President Paul McGann helm Gibson Sotheby International Realty, Boston’s largest affiliate of the prestigious Sotheby International Real Estate brand and Boston’s largest independent real estate company. Gibson Sothebys have been rapidly expanding their already large footprint, including offices now in Wellesley, Weston, Needham, and Sudbury. Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty has 23 offices and more than 350 agents in Boston. I have found the Gibson team to be warm, experienced, professional, and dynamic – truly a pleasure to work with.
Gibson Sotheby’s Vice Presidents, Michael Carucci, Debi Benoit and Beth Dickerson are exceptional in knowledge, care, and client service. Sotheby’s is a power player in the very top of the luxury real estate game in Massachusetts and New England.
Campion and Company Fine Homes. www.campionre.com
Luxury real estate professional and Campion’s namesake Tracy Campion is Boston’s leading residential agent – brokering over 5.3 billion in sales in the last 15 years. She’s Boston’s leading woman for Back Bay, a prominent figure on the Boston Real Estate scene, and one of the top agents in the nation.
Office: 617 203 6176
Mobile: 617 203 6176
Compass presents itself as the establishment challenger, having built a strong presence since its 2012 launch with CEO Robert Reffkin focusing on a foundation of digital innovation. Compass counts over 930 agents in Boston currently and while far newer than the well-established firms I have named above, Compass carries some strong listings in the Boston luxury market, experienced agents, and an energetic and ambitious platform. Compass agents we could recommend:
Senior Vice President
M. 617 646 9003
Senior Vice President
M. 917 655 4160
Sustainable Design in Luxury Homes:
Sustainable design and an honest regard for the planet is a movement which continues to gain momentum in the design community. Home design and the creation of the built environment has a nearly immeasurable impact on the health of our planet.
The movement towards Passive house standards if broadly adopted will greatly impact the world and the sustainability of our Earth. Along these lines we are currently designing a multi-million dollar passive house retro-fit from scratch and it’s something I am immensely proud of our team for. Many Passive house projects are new builds — so a retrofit design is a definite challenge, but also clearly raises the bar and shows what’s possible when a family examines the landscape of luxury design and remodel options for existing properties. In many cases, we will be able to design and build a luxury Passive house retrofit to an existing luxury home — something that is intensely aesthetic and excellent for the environment.
Luxury Home Design & Remodeling Trends in Boston
Sustainable Design-Build is currently the approach to home creation that has garnered the attention and support of top real estate agents, designers, and builders throughout Boston. Sustainable Design-Build is highly recommended to clients due to its ability to minimize cost, reduce change orders, and deliver a higher-quality project on a faster timeline — while reducing environmental impact and the carbon footprint.
Design-Bid-Build is the process which has been introduced over the past 150 years or so whereby you hire an architect to draft plans and design your project — to then have it bid out to contractors seeking to perform the project. This approach has many liabilities for the client due in no small part to the fragmented spheres of responsibilities which exist. There is no single person or entity fully accountable to the client for the entire project’s success. Thus you can have impractical and expensive design work, impractical planning, numerous change orders, shoddy craftsmanship, and projects which are off timeline and over budget. In the end the client can be left damaged — you may have experienced this in the past.
Sustainable Design-Build is clearly the way to go if you want to save on time and money, reduce stress, and eliminate a fragmented sense of project responsibility in the people working for you — while caring for the environment. Sustainable Design-Build is a planning and execution model which stresses single-source accountability with the creative design, planning, and remodel executed start to finish by one firm.
The word “Architect” in fact comes from Greek Arkhi – Master and Tekton – Builder. Architect = Master Builder and throughout history has traditionally been so up until the mid-19th century.
Design-Build is turned to by professionals, families, and individuals as the cutting edge of efficiency, aesthetics, practicality, and accountability when it comes to designing and remodeling a home. This approach packages architectural design and interior design services with highly-skilled and artisan-level building and remodeling services. This natural synthesis makes for a simple, efficient, and accountable creative process followed by a streamlined and responsible execution process — reducing cost, time of execution, and client stress throughout. In the Design-Build modality, the client is dealing solely with one fully accountable firm.
New England Design and Construction does Sustainable Architectural Design-Build with a focus on high-end and luxury homes. Here are examples of beautiful Design-Build remodels we have done in Wellesley, Chestnut Hill, and throughout the Greater Boston Area:
This is our Architectural Design-Build process here at NEDC:
Reach out with any questions or thoughts on the matter!